CAIRO: A Palestinian girl, believed to be 12 years old, was killed in clashes with Egyptian forces as a final attempt was made to return the Palestinians back across the border, sources in the area told Daily News Egypt.
Clashes led to the death of one girl and the injury of six other Palestinians as well as 40 Egyptian policemen, North Sinai Tagammu party member Hussein El Qayem told Daily News Egypt.
One of the six injured Palestinian men later died of his injuries.
“On Monday night they told the Palestinians to leave and the Egyptians to return [from Gaza], El Qayem said. “They closed the border breaches and things were going slowly in processing the passage of people. Hamas opened another breach and told the people to pass through it but Egyptian forces refused and insisted that people pass through the Rafah border crossing. People threw stones and Egyptian forces used tear gas and bullets.
This was followed by a bout of shooting as both sides traded gunfire. The Palestinian girl was killed in the crossfire.
“A Hamas police official told me they didn’t intervene in this matter, and that it was ordinary citizens who fired. Egyptian forces had to fire back because they were extremely outnumbered, El Qayem said.
“The biggest optimist cannot predict what can happen, but what the Hamas policeman informed me is that if the border isn’t opened through a purely Palestinian-Egyptian understanding, they would blow the entire border wide open, he added.
President Hosni Mubarak insisted that there would not be a repeat of the Jan 23. border breaches which saw the entry of 750,000 Palestinians.
“It is a mistake to besiege the Palestinians but we will not accept that the border [with Gaza] be left open indefinitely. What happened will not be repeated, he said in an interview with Spanish newspaper ABC.
Egyptian forces were arresting Palestinians still in Rafah Tuesday and placing them in a school near the border pending their return, according to El Qayem.
Hamas said on Tuesday that it regretted recent events at the border and criticized Egypt for opening fire on the demonstrators.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement, “Regrettable incidents at the Egyptian-Palestinian border occurred after Egyptian security forces prevented Palestinians stuck on the Egyptian side from returning home to Gaza.
“Hamas regrets these incidents and the treatment that Egyptian security has meted out to Palestinian citizens, he added.
El Qayem also said an Egyptian man was found killed in his car on the Egyptian side of Rafah Tuesday but it was ascribed to a robbery and was not related to the Palestinian demonstrations.